Aussie tennis great Mark Woodforde has warned against going back to "the old format (that) was killing Davis Cup" amid a fresh shot fired by Australia's team captain Lleyton Hewitt. The Aussies advanced to November's Davis Cup finals after beating Switzerland 3-0 on Saturday to progress out of the group stage.
But Hewitt's pride in his team's achievement has been tempered by his long-standing hatred of the new format. After a week in which organisers came under fresh fire for embarrassingly low crowds, Hewitt declared the once-revered event has been turned into a "disaster".
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A prestigious tournament once famed for its home-and-away finals played in front of partisan crowds, this year's finals will once again take place across one week in Malaga in November. With Carlos Alcaraz and Spain failing to qualify for the finals, crowds are likely to be way down once again.
Asked in Manchester if he felt it would make for a challenging situation, Hewitt agreed and said it was time to get rid of the organisers he believes have ruined the event. "Absolutely (the finals will be challenging). I've said for years the two greatest things that Davis Cup had was the best-of-five sets, because it was the pinnacle of our sport, and the home and away format," Hewitt said.
"Playing in front of 500 or 1000 people, it's not the same. But as I've told my team all the time, the pride comes in wearing the green and gold, so for us no matter what the format is, we're still gonna go out there and leave it all on the line.
"But do I agree this format is good? No, not for a minute. We've gotta get rid of people at the top … we've seen what's happened, it was meant to be a 25-year thing and it's turned into a four-year disaster.
"So until changes are made, we're gonna sit back and go through exactly the same stuff every year. I can say until the cows come home, but they've really screwed it up."
Mark Woodforde says new Davis Cup format will remain
The group stages were played in multiple locations around the world this week, with fans turning up in droves to watch Great Britain in Manchester, but empty stands for the other ties. British great Andy Murray said: "It is a shame when France and Australia, two of the biggest tennis nations who love their Davis Cup, and they're playing in front of what feels like an empty stadium."
Swiss veteran Stan Wawrinka was so disgusted by the turnout for his side's tie against France, he posted a video of the empty stands and sarcastically "thanked" Spanish former football player Gerard Pique and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) organisers. Pique and his company Kosmos are responsible for the competition's controversial restructure over the last four years, with home-and-away ties scrapped in favour of week-long group stages and finals featuring multiple countries all at the same venue.
Three-time grand slam champion Wawrinka has been highly critical of Kosmos, who had promised to invest $US3 billion ($A4.7 billion) into tennis over 25 years. However the deal collapsed earlier this year after less than five years, and a court case is now looming.
"It's been quite a clear disaster," Wawrinka said in Manchester. Aussie doubles legend Todd Woodbridge followed up by saying: "Until there is change of leadership at the ITF and DavisCup the event will become a thing of the past. So sad to see what was once a magnificent competition reduced to this."
But Woodbridge's former doubles partner Woodforde, who is chair of the Davis Cup committee, wants the new format to remain. He says the competition will stay as is next year, adding: "We feel this is the format where we can see mileage with it."
— Todd Woodbridge (@toddwoodbridge) September 12, 2023
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